Commentary

Mobile Advertising Is Not Just a Novelty

With smartphones becoming the norm and tablets on a meteoric rise, the creative bar is much higher for mobile ads than it was three years ago. Smartphone and tablet users watch videos; they engage with interactive magazines; they play games.  

Smartphones and tablets are rich media devices, so why would the advertising be static? Yet the debate over the effectiveness, value and creativity of the rich media format continues. 

The topic of mobile advertising, creative and HTML5 was heavily discussed by pros at the Mobile Media Summit in New York, and their conversation sparked some thoughts on the issues with this format, as well as some solutions.

Michael Collins of WPP’s Joule claims that there is an economics problem with rich media. Collins describes a lack of scale for rich media campaigns, as well as difficulty in planning and executing buys across device types, operating systems, publishers and apps as hurdles to be overcome.

But just across the iPhone, iPad and Android, there is enough inventory to scale, and there is enough diversity of publishers to target the right audiences. Further, if advertisers use vendors that leverage open standards, such as MRAID or ORMMA, technology fragmentation ceases to be an issue among those devices when delivering rich media creative.

Paul Longo of MediaVest also sees fragmentation issues associated with reporting performance metrics. This has certainly been a stumbling block to greater adoption of rich media and mobile advertising in general.  But, with the emergence of standards related to the adoption of client-side counting, this problem is also going away.

I have to side with Sal Candela of PHD Media that ad performance is not all about click-through rates. Brand advertisers don’t want clicks; they want engagement.  Engaging the user is precisely what rich media ads do, and do well.  Recent studies across various vertical markets have shown that rich media ads generate interaction rates of 11% or higher, which is 3.5 times more engagement than with standard mobile banners.  In entertainment, animation in mobile ads bumped the interaction rates by 4.5 times that of static banners.  

Even after overcoming these hurdles, we all have to recognize that good creative designed specifically for mobile devices is necessary -- and it costs money. That's where Eric Bader of Initiative proposed an interesting idea: Why not take dollars from "under-performing channels" to increase the budget for mobile? By actually comparing mobile to those other under-performing channels, we can yield more productive media planning strategies than we would if we were just looking at prices in a vacuum.

Regardless, mobile does not have to, and should not, stand on its own -- as Bader said, it should be used to extend exposure in conjunction with traditional media such as TV, radio, print and out-of-home advertising.

We're just at the point where the novelty of mobile is wearing off -- and that's not the time to flatten mobile creative. To truly examine the cost and effectiveness of rich media creative, why not conduct a test?

If you can make the case for rich media in any other advertising channel, first distribute the rich media budget based not on the channel, but rather on when and where you think you will reach your consumers. Then see what percentage should be considered "mobile."

If you have to, you can also try to make the case as to why you do not want to reach these consumers with high quality ads on mobile devices.

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1 comment about "Mobile Advertising Is Not Just a Novelty".
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  1. Giancarlo Maniaci from TapIt!, October 23, 2011 at 2:48 p.m.

    Great post, Tom. Mobile is far from a novelty, but there are some hurdles to get through in the near further. I feel that there will likely need to be some compression in cpm's, rich media costs as well as defragmentation to enable deployment. I believe that brand performance metrics will be a necessity from advertisers far beyond CTR, and placing more focus on campaign ROI from mobile. - Giancarlo Manaici

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